petermr's blog

A Scientist and the Web

 

Scientists should NEVER use CC-NC. This explains why.

There is a really important article at http://www.pensoft.net/journals/zookeys/article/2189/creative-commons-licenses-and-the-non-commercial-condition-implications-for-the-re-use-of-biodiversity-information. (Hagedorn G et al)

[NOTE the OKF has a clear indication of the problems of CC-NC. They should add a link to Hagedorn. See my earlier blog post http://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2010/12/17/why-i-and-you-should-avoid-nc-licences/ ].

So, you aren’t interested in Biodiversity Journals? Never read Zookeys? (I didn’t know it existed). But in 1 day about 1200 people have accessed this article. Yet another proof that WHAT you publishe matters, not WHERE. And hopefully this blog will send a few more that way.

I can’t summarise all of it. The authors give a very detailed and, I assume, competent analysis of Copyright applied to scientific content (data, articles, software) and its licensability under Creative Commons. Note that “This work is published Under a Creative Commons Licence” – which so many people glibly use is almost useless. It really means “This work is copyrighted [unless it's CC0] and to find out whether you have any rights you will have to look at the licence”. So please, always, specific WHAT CC licence you use.

The one you choose matters, because it applies the rule of LAW to your documents. If someone does something with them that is incompatible with the licence they have broken copyright law. For example combining a CC-NC-SA licence with CC-BY-SA licence is impossible without breaking the law.

There are so many misconceptions about NC. Many people think it’s about showing that you want people to share your motivation. Motivation is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is whether the court assessing the use by the licensor breaks the formal non-commercial licence. There’s little case law, but the Hagedorn paper argues that being a non-profit doesn’t mean non-commercial. Recovering costs can be seen as commercial. And so on.

We came across this when we wished to distribute a corpus of 42 papers using in training OSCAR3. The corpus was made available by the Royal Society of Chemistry. It was used (with contributions from elsewhere) to tune the performance of OSCAR3 to chemistry journals. Because training with a corpus is a key part of computational linguistics we wished to distribute the corpus (it’s probably less than 0.1% of the RSC’s published material – it would hardly affect their sales). After several years they agreed, on the basis that the corpus would be licenced as CC-NC. I pointed out very clearly that CC-NC would mean we couldn’t redistribute the corpus as a training resource (and that this was essential since others would wish to recalibrate OSCAR). Yes, they understood the implications. No they wouldn’t change. They realised the problems it would cause downstream. So we cannot redistribute the corpus with OSCAR3. The science of textmining suffers again.

Why? If I understood correctly (and they can correct me if I have got it wrong) it was to prevent their competitors using the corpus. (The competitors includes other learned societies. )

I thought that learned societies existed to promote their discipline. To work to increase quality. To help generate communal resources for the better understanding and practice of the science. And chemistry really badly needs communal resources – it’s fifteen years behind bioscience because of its restrictive practices. But I’m wrong. Competition against other learned societies is more important than promoting the quality of science.

Meanwhile Creative Commons is rethinking NC. They realise that it causes major problems. There are several plans (see Hagedorn paper):

Creative Commons is aware of the problems with NC licenses. Within the context of the upcoming version 4.0 of Creative Commons licenses (Peters 2011), it considers various options of reform (Linksvayer 2011b; Dobusch 2011):

• hiding the NC option from the license chooser in the future, thus formally retiring the NC condition

• dropping the BY-NC-SA and BY-NC-ND variant, leaving BY-NC the only non-commercial option

• rebranding NC licenses as something other than CC; perhaps moving to a “non-creativecommons.org” domain as a bold statement

• clarifying the definition of NC

I’d support some of these (in combination) but not the last. Because while it is still available many people will use it on the basis that it’s the honourable thing to do (I made this mistake on this blog). And others will use it deliberately to stop the full dissemination of content.

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